Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

VIDEO :: Sampling Black Carbon Over Arctic Sea-Ice and Open Leads

Ryan Spackman, TEST a NOAA scientist working on the HIPPO campaign, discusses why it is important to take samples of black carbon over sea ice. Learn more about Ryan Spackman and the Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2) Instrument, the instrument that measures black carbon.

The HIPPO campaign presents an unparalleled opportunity to sample the atmosphere, as the name suggests literally from pole-to-pole, from 500 feet about the surface of the ocean to 45,000 feet in altitude. One of the unique opportunities we have during HIPPO is to make measurements in the Arctic atmosphere, out on the sea ice and open leads.

Here’s a video that I took during the last HIPPO campaign in November 2009. We’re flying here on the G-V aircraft at 500 feet over the sea ice, a couple of hundred mile north of Barrow, Alaska. You’re looking at the sea ice, scattered throughout are open leads in the sea ice. These features are typically on the order of tens of meters in width, and you might even notice that there is forming ice around some of these open leads.

So why are we interested in these features? Well it depends on who you talk to. A person who makes measurements of ozone may have different reasons than I do. I make measurements of black carbon, I’m interested in how black carbon is removed from the arctic atmosphere.

There are two issues here that are of interest from a climate standpoint.

One is, when black carbon is in the atmosphere it absorbs solar radiation which then warms those layers in the atmosphere. Two, when black carbon is removed it’s deposited to the snow or ice where it can absorb solar radiation and accelerate the loss of sea ice through warming.

So these are two very important issues. The question is how do they connect to the topic of open leads? Well the hypotheses is that open leads may facilitate bringing the black carbon from higher altitudes down to near the surface where that is can then be removed by contact with snow or sea ice.

So this is one of the science questions that we hope to address during the HIPPO campaign.




HIPPO is a landmark study for many reasons, not the least of which is it is the first time scientists have systematically mapped global distribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, covering the full troposphere in all seasons and multiple years.

  • HIPPO I :: 8 January-30 January 2009
  • HIPPO II :: 31 October-22 November 2009
  • HIPPO III :: 24 March-16 April 2010
  • HIPPO IV :: 14 June-11 July 2011
  • HIPPO V :: 9 August-9 September 2011